Alex Goligoski signs with Arizona, gives Coyotes’ back end stability

The veteran defenseman and Stanley Cup winner had his free agency rights traded from Dallas and it didn’t take long for him to sign with his new squad. With Oliver Ekman-Larsson already the man, Arizona now has a great No. 2 to help out an evolving corps.

Defenseman Alex Goligoski, who won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009, is now officially a member of the Arizona Coyotes. The veteran defenseman had his rights traded from Dallas for a fifth-round pick in 2016 last week and the Coyotes wasted no time in locking him down with a long-term contract.

For the new brain trust in Arizona, this is a big win.

The Coyotes are coming off a fourth straight season without playoff hockey and the yearning to win was apparent in the front office shuffle that saw Don Maloney let go as GM and coach Dave Tippett given more executive power. From my understanding, Tippett is now the “vision guy” for the team, while new GM John Chayka is in charge of implementing that vision through roster decisions. That’s where Goligoski comes in.

The blueliner, who turns 31 this summer, has just signed a five-year pact worth $5.4 million per season. That’s slightly less than what Oliver Ekman-Larsson makes, as well it should be. Ekman-Larsson has been a fantastic No. 1 defenseman for the Coyotes and bringing in Goligoski will help take some pressure off.

Goligoski can play in all situations and led Dallas in average time on ice this past season, discounting Kris Russell (who only played 11 games for the Stars). Arizona could use those all-around skills, and Goligoski’s minutes will help younger defensemen such as Connor Murphy and Klas Dahlbeck, both of whom are growing into NHL roles.

“Alex has a strong history of being a shot-suppressing, possession-driving player,” Chayka said. ” ‘Tip’ is excited to have him on our team when we’re protecting a lead late. When he’s on the ice, his teams play better and he plays against top competition.”

With Zbynek Michalek also in the fold, the Coyotes ‘D’ corps is looking pretty decent right now. This is huge, because as we’ve seen with Edmonton, it’s incredibly hard to gain traction out of a rebuild if you don’t have top veterans leading you at different positions.

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Goligoski makes the Coyotes better right now, but he can also have a positive effect on Murphy and Dahlbeck by taking a little more pressure off of them. For his part, the veteran is excited about the opportunity.

“It feels like they have things going in the right direction,” Goligoski said. “They’re a young team, but they’re growing quick. They’re certainly not short on talent.”

Now, are the Coyotes a playoff threat? It’s much too early to say. Goaltender Mike Smith will be a huge factor and if he can get back to the form he exhibited in 2011-12 when he first came to town, then maybe you’ve got something. But that’s a big “if.”

We know the Coyotes have some rising scoring punch in Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, not to mention the expected return of captain Shane Doan (and yes, I expect him to return, no question about it). Goligoski makes the defense corps better, so Smith and his unmoveable contract is key to Arizona’s fate next season.

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the Goligoski signing, however, is that the blueliner could have waited until July 1 and tested free agency. He would have been one of the top prizes of the field, so why get locked down by Arizona? On top of the nice, sunny locale and team on the rise, the defenseman just got a good vibe from Chayka and Tippett.

“Everything felt right,” Goligoski said. “It was about finding a good fit and knowing I would be somewhere for multiple years. This checked all the boxes.”

And the Coyotes may not be done yet. With a great pipeline of forwards and a ton of cap space, the team can be active about getting better now, so draft weekend will be interesting.

“Hopefully, this is the first domino,” Chayka said. “We feel we have the capital to make some moves.”